The Virginia Tech softball team kicked off its season this past weekend by winning three of four games in a tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.
The tournament started with the weather causing problems, as it has up and down the East Coast recently. The Hokies were supposed to open their season on Friday against Drexler and then UNC Greensboro, but all of Friday’s action was cancelled because of rain the night before.
Instead, Tech’s season began with two games on Saturday against Bethune-Cookman and the host, Jacksonville.
The Hokies started off the tournament with a bang and had no trouble with Bethune-Cookman, taking them down 14-3 in six innings. Both the 14 runs and 15 hits the Hokies tallied set program records for an opening day game.
The game was headlined by the performances of two players, junior Richelle McGarva and freshman Jasmin Harrell.
McGarva, who spent most of last season injured, came back strong, going 2-5 with two doubles and four RBIs to lead the Hokies’ offensive onslaught.
“It felt really good. I was kind of nervous, but it felt fine,” McGarva said. “I know there is room for improvement, but I didn’t expect too much from myself.”
On the other side of the ball, Harrell was brought in to pitch during the third inning and pitched four perfect innings to get the win in her first-ever collegiate game
“I was surprised by how much I pitched, but I knew (assistant coach Barb Sherwood) told me I was going to be able to pitch in the tournament. I just didn’t know when,” Harrell said.
In the second game of the day, the Hokies couldn’t duplicate the success they had earlier and fell 11-7 to Jacksonville. Junior pitcher Kenzie Roark got her first start of the season, but she struggled throughout. In six innings, Roark gave up eight runs, including a seven-run second.
Out of the 11 runs, only five were earned, as the Hokies committed five errors.
Because of the lack of time to practice on dirt because of the snow, problems in the field were a concern to head coach Scot Thomas going into the weekend.
“For not having been out on the dirt at all until we got out here, I mean, you know you’re going to make mistakes,” Thomas said. “I feel like we did a pretty good job, but there are some things we need to shore up, that’s for sure.”
Sunday brought an early start for the Hokies because their day consisted of two games, the first of which started at 9 a.m.
While the first day featured great hitting, the Hokies used Sunday’s games to show how successful they can be at pitching.
Against Drexler, Tech only put up five runs, four of which came in the fifth inning, but Harrell was solid. She pitched five shutout innings, 6.2 overall and was only pulled after giving up three total runs late in the sixth and seventh innings. Roark came in to get the final out in just three pitches to earn her first save of the year.
To end the weekend, the Hokies and UNC Greensboro got together to play in the final game of the weekend, with the Hokies winning 8-2 in 10 innings.
Sophomore Kristin Graham got the start in her first outing of the year. She pitched 5.1 scoreless innings and gave up just four hits. Roark came in to relieve her and also was effective, pitching 4.2 innings and giving up just two runs to get the win after a six-run 10th inning by the Hokies.
Even though the Hokies are content with how they performed in the tournament, Thomas observed some inconsistency at the plate, citing the inexperience of the team as a possible cause.
Tech will play this weekend in the Red and Black showcase, hosted by University of Georgia. The Hokies play Western Carolina Friday, and then No. 8 Georgia. later that night.